Bishop of Bristol
Official portrait of The Lord Bishop of Bristol crop 2.jpg
Vivienne Faull
Ecclesiastical provinceCanterbury
ResidenceBishop's House, Winterbourne
Established1542 (and 1897)
CathedralBristol Cathedral

The Bishop of Bristol heads the Church of England Diocese of Bristol in the Province of Canterbury, in England.

The present diocese covers parts of the counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire together with a small area of Wiltshire. The see is in the City of Bristol where the seat is located at Bristol Cathedral. The bishop's residence is a house in Winterbourne, Gloucestershire, north of Bristol.

The bishop is Vivienne Faull (previously Dean of York),[1] since the confirmation of her election on 25 June 2018.[2] She was consecrated at St Paul's Cathedral on 3 July 2018[3] and enthroned in her Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Bristol on 20 October 2018.[4]


Early times

In 1133, Robert Fitzharding began to build "the abbeye at Bristowe, that of Saint Austin is" (i.e. an Augustinian monastery).[5] The abbey church, destined to serve hereafter as a cathedral, was of different dates: the old Norman nave built by Fitzharding seems to have stood till the suppression, but the chancel, which still exists, was early 14th century and the transepts late 15th. The building was worthy to serve as a cathedral. Yet at first Bristol does not seem to have been thought of as a bishopric, for it is not included in the list of projected sees now among the Cottonian MSS in the British Museum.[6]

Tudor period

A suffragan See of Bristol was erected by the Suffragan Bishops Act 1534 and filled by Henry Holbeach, who assisted Hugh Latimer and John Bell, Bishops of Worcester in the Diocese of Worcester while Bristol was still within that diocese. Holbeach was to be the only bishop suffragan before the diocesan See was erected.

The abbey church of the Augustinian Canons was plundered at the time of the suppression of the house in 1539, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The church itself was already in process of demolition, when the king's order came to block the devastation. The surviving church's dedication was changed from St Augustine to the Holy Trinity.

It was then decided to establish a diocese of Bristol. This was one of the six that Henry VIII, acting as head of the Church, established by Act of Parliament in 1542 out of the spoils of the suppressed monasteries; the others were Oxford, Westminster, Gloucester, Peterborough, and Chester. Of the six, only Westminster was short-lived (lasting 10 years) – the other five exist today.

It may well be that the fact of the city's then being one of the leading towns in England and the chief seaport explains why it was selected as one of the new sees. Moreover, like the others, it possessed an important religious house, the buildings of which might serve the new purposes. It has also been suggested that the choice of Bristol owed something at least to Thomas Cranmer, who visited Bristol shortly before his election as Archbishop of Canterbury, and busied himself in ecclesiastical affairs there.

The first bishop appointed by the King was Paul Bush, formerly master of Edington Priory in Wiltshire, an Augustinian canon known as both a scholar and a poet. He nevertheless went along with the new ways to the point of marrying, his chosen wife being one Edith Ashley. On this account proceedings were undertaken against him in Queen Mary's reign. In 1554 a commission passed on him a sentence of deprivation, though by this time he had already voluntarily resigned.

During the vacancy, Pope Paul IV empowered Cardinal Pole to re-found the See of Bristol. The next bishop was John Holyman, a former Benedictine monk with a reputation for learning and sanctity who had been a friend of the martyred Abbot of Reading, Hugh Cook Faringdon. As Bishop of Bristol, Holyman was well appreciated. Though he took part in the trial of John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, and served also on a commission to try Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer, in general he took no active part in the proceedings on the score of heresy. He died in the summer or autumn of 1558 and was buried in Hanborough, Oxfordshire, the living of which he held from 1534 to 1558—even after his consecration. He was thus spared the upheaval that began with the accession of Elizabeth I the following November.

No bishop was appointed in Bristol for several years, and then Holyman in 1562 was succeeded by Richard Cheyney (1562–1579), who, though suspect under the new regime on account of his clear Roman leanings (as a young man he was a friend of Edmund Campion), could not be counted a Roman Catholic.

The diocese was formed by taking the county and archdeaconry of Dorset from Salisbury, and several parishes from the dioceses of Gloucester and Worcester, together with three churches in Bristol which had belonged to Bath and Wells.

The modern bishopric

In 1836 the see was united with that of Gloucester, whilst the Dorset territory was reunited with the diocese of Salisbury. In 1897, Bristol was again separated from Gloucester. The new diocese consisted of the southern part of Gloucestershire and the northern part of Wiltshire, including the town of Swindon. Thus the diocese consists of the strip of territory either side of the Great Western railway uniting Swindon and Bristol. The first bishop appointed was George Forrest Browne, Bishop of Bristol from 1897 to 1914.[7]

List of bishops

For the sole Bishop suffragan of Bristol, see Henry Holbeach.

Bishops of Bristol
From Until Incumbent Notes
1542 1554
No image.svg
Paul Bush
Provincial of the Bonshommes; being married, resigned upon the accession of Queen Mary.
1554 December 1558
No image.svg
John Holyman
Monk of Reading; died in office.
1558 1562 Vacant for three years.
1562 1579
No image.svg
Richard Cheyney
Previously Canon at Westminster; with dispensation simultaneously held the separate diocesan see of Gloucester; died in office.
1579 1581 Vacant for two years.
1581 1589
No image.svg
John Bullingham
Previously Canon of Worcester and Prebendary of Lincoln; with dispensation simultaneously held the separate diocesan see of Gloucester and prebendary of Hereford; died in office.
1589 1593
No image.svg
Richard Fletcher
Previously Dean of Peterborough; translated to Worcester then London.
1593 1603 Vacant for 10 years.
1603 1617
John Thornborough from NPG (crop).jpg
John Thornborough
Translated from Limerick; translated to Worcester.
1617 1619
Bp Nicholas Felton.jpg
Nicholas Felton
Also Prebendary of St Paul's; translated to Ely.
1619 1622
No image.svg
Rowland Searchfield
Died in office.
1623 1632
Robert Wright, Warden of Wadham.jpg
Robert Wright
Translated to Lichfield & Coventry.
1633 1636
No image.svg
George Coke
Previously Canon at St Paul's; translated to Hereford.
1637 1641
No image.svg
Robert Skinner
Translated to Oxford then Worcester.
1642 1644
No image.svg
Thomas Westfield
Also Archdeacon of St Albans since 1631; died in office.
1644 1646
No image.svg
Thomas Howell
Deprived of the see when the English episcopacy was abolished by Parliament on 9 October 1646; died 1650.
1646 1660 The see was abolished during the Commonwealth and the Protectorate.[8][9]
1661 1671
Bp Gilbert Ironside the Elder.jpg
Gilbert Ironside (I)
Previously Prebendary of York; died in office.
1672 1679
No image.svg
Guy Carleton
Previously Dean of Carlisle; translated to Chichester.
1679 1684
Bp William Gulston.jpg
William Gulston
Prebendary of Chichester, 1666–1681; died in office.
1684 1685
John Lake
Translated from Sodor & Man; translated to Chichester.
1685 1689
Jonathan Trelawny.jpg
Sir Jonathan Trelawny, Bt.
Translated to Exeter and then Winchester.
1689 1691
Bp Gilbert Ironside the Younger.jpg
Gilbert Ironside (II)
Previously Vice-Chancellor at Oxford University; translated to Hereford.
1691 1710
Dr John Hall Bp of Bristol.jpg
John Hall
Also Master of Pembroke College, Oxford since 1664 and Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford since 1676; died in office.
1710 1714
Bp John Robinson.jpg
John Robinson
Also Dean of Windsor, 1709–1713 and Lord Privy Seal, 1711–1713; translated to London.
1714 1719
George Smalridge.jpg
George Smalridge
Also Dean of Christ Church, Oxford since 1713; died in office.
1719 1724
Bp Hugh Boulter.jpg
Hugh Boulter
Previously Archdeacon of Surrey; also Dean of Christ Church, Oxford; translated to Armagh.
1724 1732
William Bradshaw by Enoch Seeman.jpg
William Bradshaw
Also Dean of Christ Church, Oxford; died in office.
1733 1734
No image.svg
Charles Cecil
Translated to Bangor.
1735 1737
Thomas Secker by Sir Joshua Reynolds.jpg
Thomas Secker
Previously Canon at Durham; translated to Oxford then Canterbury.
1737 1738
Thomas Gooch
Previously Archdeacon of Essex; translated to Norwich then Ely.
1738 1750
Joseph Butler, Bp of Bristol.jpg
Joseph Butler
Previously Prebendary of Rochester; translated to Durham.
1750 1755
Bp John Conybeare.jpg
John Conybeare
Also Dean of Christ Church, Oxford since 1733; died in office.
1756 1758
John Hume Bp of Oxford.jpg
John Hume
Translated to Oxford then Salisbury.
1758 1761
Philip Yonge Bp of Norwich.jpg
Philip Yonge
Also Prebendary at St Paul's since 1754; translated to Norwich.
1761 1782
Thomas Newton Bp Bristol.jpg
Thomas Newton
Previously Prebendary of Westminster; also Canon of St Paul's; also Dean of St Paul's from 1768; died in office.
1782 1783
Bp Lewis Bagot by John Hoppner.jpg
Lewis Bagot
Also Dean of Christ Church, Oxford since 1777; translated to Norwich then St Asaph.
1783 1792
Bp Christopher Wilson.jpg
Christopher Wilson
Died in office.[10]
1792 1794
Spencer Madan Bishop of Peterborough.jpg
Spencer Madan
Translated to Peterborough.
1794 1797
Henry Reginald Courtenay, Bp of Exeter.jpg
Reginald Courtenay
Previously Prebendary at Rochester; translated to Exeter.
1797 1802
Folliott Herbert Walker Cornewall by William Owen.jpg
Folliott Cornewall
Previously Dean of Canterbury; translated to Hereford then Worcester.
1802 1807
Bp George Pelham.jpg
George Pelham
Translated to Exeter then Lincoln.
1807 1808
No image.svg
John Luxmoore
Dean of Gloucester since 1800; translated to Hereford then St Asaph.
1808 1820
William Lort Mansel by GH Harlow.jpg
William Lort Mansel
Also Master of Trinity College, Cambridge since 1798; died in office.
1820 1827
John Kaye by Richard Rothwell.jpg
John Kaye
Also Master of Christ's College, Cambridge, 1814–1830; translated to Lincoln.
1827 1834
Dr Robert Gray by Richard Evans.jpg
Robert Gray
Died in office.
1834 1836
Joseph Allen by Thomas Phillips.jpg
Joseph Allen
Previously Prebendary at Westminster; translated to Ely.
Bishops of Gloucester and Bristol
Merged as a single see and diocese, 1836–1897
See Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol
Bishops of Bristol
From Until Incumbent Notes
1897 1914
George Forrest Browne
Translated from Stepney.
1914 1933
No image.svg
George Nickson
Translated from Jarrow.
1933 1946
Bishop Clifford Salisbury Woodward.jpg
Clifford Woodward
Translated to Gloucester.
1946 1958
No image.svg
Frederick Cockin
Previously Canon at St Paul's.
1958 1975
Bishop Oliver Tompkins.jpg
Oliver Tomkins
Previously Canon at Lincoln.
1975 1985
Bishop John Tinsley.jpg
John Tinsley
Previously Professor of Theology at Leeds; consecrated in 1975, but elected and confirmed in 1975.
1985 2002
Bishop Barry Rogerson.jpg
Barry Rogerson
Translated from Wolverhampton; Ordained the first women priests in the Church of England, 14 March 1994.
2003 2017
Bishop Mike Hill (crop).jpg
Mike Hill
Translated from Buckingham; retired 30 September 2017.[11]
2018 incumbent
Official portrait of The Lord Bishop of Bristol crop 2.jpg
Vivienne Faull
Previously Dean of York; confirmed 25 June 2018; consecrated at St Paul's Cathedral, 3 July 2018; enthroned in her Cathedral Church 20 October 2018

Assistant bishops

For assistant bishops in Bristol before 1897, see Assistant bishops in the Diocese of Gloucester and Bristol.

Among those who have served as assistant bishops in the diocese were:


  1. ^ "Very Revd Vivienne Faull announced as the next Bishop of Bristol". Diocese of Bristol. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  2. ^ York Minster — Acting Dean of York (Accessed 29 June 2018)
  3. ^ "Consecration of Vivienne Faull as Bishop of Bristol". Diocese of Bristol. 12 July 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Service of Welcome and Enthronement for Bishop of Bristol". Diocese of Bristol. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  5. ^ "St Augustine's Abbey". University of the West of England. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  6. ^ Page, William (ed.). "Houses of Augustinian canons: The abbey of St Augustine, Bristol". British History Online. Victoria County History. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  7. ^ The Rev George Forrest Browne at
  8. ^ Plant, David (2002). "Episcopalians". BCW Project. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  9. ^ King, Peter (July 1968). "The Episcopate during the Civil Wars, 1642-1649". The English Historical Review. Oxford University Press. 83 (328): 523–537. doi:10.1093/ehr/lxxxiii.cccxxviii.523. JSTOR 564164.
  10. ^ "Wilson, Christopher (WL732C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  11. ^ Diocese of Bristol — Bishop of Bristol announces retirement (Accessed 25 January 2017)
  12. ^ "Marsden, Samuel Edward". Who's Who. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)


  • Haydn, Joseph; Ockerby, Horace (1969) [1894]. Haydn's Book of Dignities (reprint ed.). Bath: Firecrest Publishing.
  • Whitaker's Almanack (editions 1883 to 2004), Joseph Whitaker & Sons, Ltd/A&C Black, London.
  • Text partly adapted from the Catholic Encyclopaedia of 1908.